I hit the single key on the keyboard and simultaneously felt my stomach drop to my feet. It was the fall of 2008, I was a senior filling out college applications and had just typed “0” in response to the question asking for my family’s annual household income. Zero. Literally zero dollars. The housing bubble had burst, what we now know as “The Great Recession” had begun, and both my parents’ jobs had been collateral damage.
“This isn’t necessarily bad,” I thought. “Maybe living without an income will get me some scholarship money.” My GPA was good, my scores were fine, but I knew in my gut I wouldn’t see much in the way of assistance, at least not from a major state university’s financial aid office.
At the time, our History/English class was reading Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. If you never read the book or could use a refresher, spoiler alert: It’s a downer. Arthur Miller’s drama details the crushing realities and delusions of a failed salesman, Willy Loman. After suffering abandonment from his father as a child, Willy spends his life chasing the American Dream, believing success belongs to those who are likable, rather than hardworking. Consequently, Willy is devastated by the loss of his job and is consumed with jealousy as he watches his neighbor and brother prosper. Desperate for one last shot at success, Willy kills himself in order to provide his son with insurance money to fund a new business venture.
Definitely not the feel-good story of the year.
However, the contrast between Willy Loman and my parents wasn’t lost on me. While I read about Willy’s frantic search for meaning and success, obsessing over past mistakes while resenting others, I watched my parents humbly submit our circumstances to the Lord. If there had been frantic searches for meaning or feelings of hostility, my younger brother and I never saw it. Instead, our parents were open and honest with us about the circumstances, expectantly prayed for God’s provision, and faithfully executed the emergency plan they had committed to years before the economy took a hit.
Unlike Willy, my parents knew their identity came from the Lord and who He said they were: beloved; chosen; children of God; a people for His own possession; citizens of heaven; redeemed. The world insists our value is defined by titles, connections, degrees and assets. But as believers, we know our value was secured on the cross when Christ paid the ultimate price for us.
If He’ll take care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, how much more will He provide for us – His children?
The circumstances of my senior year may have looked grim, but they’re what allowed me to spend my thirteenth and final year at CCA soaking in some of the most meaningful truths. Despite the difficulties everyone felt during the recession, our CCA community rallied around us, and I saw firsthand how I could trust the Lord with every need. My class was the first to receive the gift of a laptop upon graduation. Families anonymously left us gift cards in the front office. Teachers and coaches were intentional about asking how my brother and I were really doing. To watch God use the community that raised me to provide for us as we trusted in Him was the sweetest parting gift I could have ever received. It allowed me to venture into the real world with full confidence the Lord would take care of me. It’s been 10 years since I filled out that college application, and I know now even more than I did before, that promise is secure.